President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a bill banning goods made by Uyghur slave labor in China, VOA News reports.
Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Participation Act, which was approved last week by Congress after a year of negotiations.
The bill bans all goods from China’s Xinjiang province, where authorities have locked up countless Uyghur Muslims in so-called “re-education” facilities that have been likened to concentration camps, unless companies cam show “clear and convincing evidence” their supply chain does not include forced labor by Muslims in the camps.
The Biden administration earlier this month said it would boycott the Beijing Olympics in February in response to the country’s human rights abuses.
The US has accused China of a “genocide” against the Uyghurs. An independent tribunal earlier this month found that Chinese leaders hold “primary responsibility” for acts of genocide against the Uyghurs.
US companies lobbied against:
American companies that have a big footprint in China, like Coca-Cola and Nike, lobbied against earlier versions of the legislation. China pushed back on the bill, accusing the US of ignoring its own forced labor.
“China firmly opposes the interference by the U.S. Congress in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of Xinjiang-related issues. By cooking up lies and making troubles on such issues, some U.S. politicians are seeking to contain China and hold back China’s development through political manipulation and economic bullying in the name of human rights,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.
The legislation was backed by Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
“The United States is so reliant on China that we have turned a blind eye to the slave labor that makes our clothes, our solar panels, and much more. That changes today,” said Florida Republican Marco Rubio. “Our Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act will require businesses importing goods into the United States to prove that their supply chains are not tainted with slave labor. It is time to end our economic addiction to China.”
“If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to speak out for human rights any place in the world,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“It's a signal to the rest of the world that the U.S. is actually going to take action on this,” Peter Irwin, senior program officer for advocacy and communications at the Uyghur Human Rights Project, told VOA. “It can also set a template for other governments to pick this up and say we're going to pass our own forced labor bill. For example, if the U.S. stops allowing in forced labor goods, then [Chinese] leaders shift their exports to Europe or to Canada. So having that template for other governments to pick up and actually pass these kinds of bills, that helps the U.S.”